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The Role of the Toastmaster
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The role of the Toastmaster forms an integral part of any occasion where there are likely to be a number of guests and organisation and timing is important.  Seldom would the organiser of an event such as a Civic Dinner, a Charity Ball or a Royal Occasion contemplate proceeding without engaging the services of a Toastmaster.  Seldom would an Awards Dinner or Conference be arranged without a Master of Ceremonies.  It should be so with a wedding celebration.

Toastmasters are not born but are highly trained individuals, not only in the etiquette of any occasion, but also in personal relationships, project management and sometimes diplomatic skills.  Most Toastmasters will be qualified and members of an association. Probably the most well regarded and prestigious of these is the Guild of Professional Toastmasters, based in London, but with Fellows of the Guild residing throughout the UK. To become fully competent through the Guild involves a thorough training, both in a classroom situation and in the real world, working at functions; through written examination and by giving faultless performances at actual events, under the personal observation of officials of the Guild. Only top rated Toastmasters are accepted into this Guild.

Some wedding venues will provide a qualified Toastmaster as part of their service.  Others will hope that the Maître D’ table will perform this complex role whilst controlling all the other matters for which they are responsible, such as food and beverage service, the management of staff, efficient service in all bars and delivery points.  These will inevitably take the MD’s priority above attending to the minutia of detail so important to the Bride and Bridegroom’s day.  Many Hotels will have other guests staying at the same time as a wedding reception, and the Maitre D’ table may well be pulled away to attend to other guests that are of course as equally important to the Hotel.

Alternatively many a Bridegroom will rely upon his Best Man to assume the role of “organiser” on the day – a role that few Best Men cherish nor have the experience at performing.  So the role of a Toastmaster is really to be independent of the venue, but working with them to ensure that the Bride and Bridegroom, and indeed the entire wedding party, are receiving the attention befitting the occasion and to ensure that the whole reception runs smoothly.  Very few Best Men have the confidence, charisma and presence of a Toastmaster and can sometimes fail to carry off the role with any aplomb.The Toastmaster is often referred to as “The Bride’s Father’s Best Man”

The Toastmaster is easily recognised in the smart red coat and is a focal point for guests and indeed venue staff alike.

Timing can be crucial.  Imagine photographers overrunning their schedule and the chef trying to hold hot food back until all the guests are finally seated. Some dishes spoil if overcooked – a disappointment for all.  Or alternatively a Best Man invites guests into the dining room early where the staff are unprepared to receive them! It is crucial that the Toastmaster works with the photographer and the Maître D’ table to ensure timings are met.

Often speeches and toasts are made before the wedding breakfast and again if speeches overrun, food and service can be ruined.  Lateness of one aspect of the day tends to impact upon the latter stages of a wedding breakfast.

Here are just a few examples of the functions a Toastmaster will perform at a typical Wedding Reception, some quite unnoticed to the Bridal Party, but important nonetheless.
Arriving about an hour before the Bride and Bridegroom to check on all arrangements with the venue staff
Time checks with the venue to ensure that everything is in place E.g. /table plan / candles/table wines/top table place settings/gifts and bouquets in readiness for Bridegroom’s speech/musicians in place/guestbook and pen/favours/cameras/high chairs/sound equipment working  and a multitude of other things.
Receiving and welcoming the wedding guests
Ensuring that the more senior guests are recognised and catered for – seats/coats/facilities
Receiving the Bride and Bridegroom – an elegant exit from the car/carriage/helicopter
Guiding guests to the reception area for Aperitifs and canapés
Working closely with the photographer – gently and politely assembling groups
Arranging the Receiving Line, providing advice on protocol and speed.
Announcing guests to the Bridal Party
Announcing the Bride and Bridegroom’s parents to the guests
Announcing the Bride and Bridegroom to the guests
Announcing or saying Grace
Housekeeping – cloakrooms/fire exits/etiquette/cameras
Circulating with guest book and ensuring all guests are comfortable and have all they need  throughout the wedding breakfast, advising staff of problems before they occur
Announcing and arranging the cutting of the cake and ensuring that the guests have a photo opportunity.
Announcing the speeches in the chosen order and proposing the toasts if the situation demands.
Bringing the whole reception to a graceful close
Announcing the arrangements for the evening functions.
The decision to engage the services of a Toastmaster should be taken early in the planning stages of a wedding reception.  This is not only because Toastmasters are booked well in advance, but because they can be of so much help in the preparations.  From speech writing, to how long it will take to welcome guests through the receiving line. They also have a very good feeling for what works and what doesn’t work at a reception.

This article was sent and published by

Michael Underwood FGPT
Fellow of the Guild of Professional Toastmasters.                                                

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